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Supreme Court rejects latest attempt to revive $5.4 billion judgment in Price vs Philip Morris

By Ann Maher | Jan 12, 2016

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Supreme Court has denied attorney Stephen Tillery's request to recall a mandate the Court issued a decade ago after it struck down a $10.1 billion judgment against Philip Morris.

In the same announcement, the Court also referred to Justice Lloyd Karmeier Tillery's move to recuse or disqualify Karmeier from hearing the matter. Karmeier then denied that request, as well.

Justice Robert Thomas did not participate in the decision to deny the motion to recall the mandate. Thomas and Karmeier did not participate in discussions concerning the request to refer the recusal and disqualification question to Karmeier.

Karmeier denied a similar recusal motion last year, after Tillery’s bid to restore the judgment reached the Court from the Fifth District Appellate Court.

Years of proceedings in Price v. Philip Morris over the marketing of "light" cigarettes culminated with a decision on Nov. 4 when the Justices told Tillery he should have brought his case to them directly instead of reopening it in circuit court.

Two weeks later on Nov. 17, Tillery attorney Robert King moved to recall the mandate and recuse or disqualify Karmeier.

“This motion is the latest chapter in a long standing attempt to hold Philip Morris accountable for its unconscionable fraud,” King wrote.

“If there were ever a civil case which presented the kinds of extraordinary circumstances warranting a recall of a mandate of this Court, this is the case.”

Tillery sued Philip Morris in 2000, in Madison County, claiming it deceived smokers into expecting health benefits from light and low tar brands.

He sought the difference between what smokers paid and what they would have paid if Philip Morris hadn’t deceived them.

Former circuit judge Nicholas Byron certified lead plaintiff Sharon Price to represent millions of smokers.

Philip Morris asked for a jury, and Byron denied it.

He held trial in 2003, and awarded all the damages Tillery claimed.

Byron added punitive damages and allocated them to causes he found worthy.

He also awarded Tillery’s legal team $1.8 billion.

The Justices reversed Price in 2005 on federal preemption grounds.

The majority, which included Karmeier, found they could not apply state law because the Federal Trade Commission authorized light and low tar labels.

Those Justices expressed concern about certification of the class and calculation of the damages, but found it unnecessary to address those items.

Tillery petitioned for rehearing and didn’t get it.

He petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review and didn’t get it.

In 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a mandate to Byron.

Byron signed an order dismissing the case, but that didn’t stop the action.

Tillery has kept it going by pleading that new evidence contradicts the Supreme Court’s decision.

He argues that in 2008, in a separate case, the Federal Trade Commission took a position that it never authorized light labels.

Tillery persuaded Fifth District judges so well that they reinstated Byron’s judgment in May 2014.

On Nov. 4, the Supreme Court vacated the appellate justices’ decision finding they acted as a superior court to the Supreme Court.

Still, they did not end the action.

The majority held that if the class wanted to offer new evidence, the class should move to recall the mandate.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois Supreme Court Korein Tillery Madison County Philip Morris USA U.S. Federal Trade Commission

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